Butler v. LeBouef

A will and trust were properly invalidated under Probate Code 21380’s conclusive presumption of undue influence where they named as principal beneficiary the attorney who drafted them for an elderly mentally impaired client.  This decision affirms the probate court’s invalidation of a will and trust which it found that the defendant lawyer had prepared for an elderly, mentally impaired man, leaving all his property to defendant.  The trial court did not err in allowing in evidence regarding two other estates which the defendant lawyer had plundered in a similar manner.  And any error in that regard was harmless, anyway, since the plaintiff’s expert had examined the prior wills or trusts and gave his opinion that they were surely prepared by the same person who prepared the will and trust in this case.  Substantial evidence supported the probate court’s finding that defendant prepared the will and trust.  Under Probate Code 21380, a will is conclusively presumed to be the result of undue influence if prepared by the beneficiary.  Defendant was also properly ordered to pay plaintiffs $1.2 million in attorney fees under section 21380(d) and was also properly denied his own fees as trustee and for his defense as he had unjustly enriched himself at the trust’s expense during the pendency of the action.

California Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 6 (Yegan, J.); June 20, 2016; 2016 WL 3398418

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